Unification is the predominant theme for cord-cutting in 2020. Rathing than bouncing between a half-dozen or extra streaming apps, we’ll see extra makes an attempt at funneling all our subscriptions into one huge TV information.
The newest effort comes from Reelgood, which simply launched a nifty new distant management characteristic for Roku gadgets. When you discover one thing to look at in Reelgood’s streaming information apps for iPhone or Android, you possibly can press a button and launch the video immediately in your Roku participant or good TV.
I’ve been utilizing a pre-release model of Reelgood’s new app this week, and whereas I bumped into some points with a handful of providers, it labored flawlessly with content material from Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, Tubi, and Crackle. Roku itself doesn’t present something like this, so utilizing Reelgood’s distant app is perhaps even higher than navigating with an precise distant.
Remote management trickery
If you’re not acquainted with Reelgood, the app supplies common search, suggestions, and a watchlist to your streaming providers. Select the providers that you just use, and you’ll browse for motion pictures and reveals throughout all of them on the identical time. Reelgood may also tailor its suggestions over time primarily based on what you’ve added to your watchlist.
In the previous, Reelgood was siloed off from streaming gadgets similar to Roku gamers or Amazon Fire TV Sticks. You might use Reelgood’s cell app or web site to trace reveals or get suggestions, however in the end you’d nonetheless have to choose up a separate distant and wade by way of a bunch of menus to achieve the precise content material. (One exception: You might use Reelgood to launch different movies apps in your telephone, then launch video in your TV through Chromecast.)
With the distant management characteristic, Reelgood is now not an island. You simply choose a film or present within the Reelgood app, then choose any Roku in your Wi-Fi community for playback. Roku will then launch the suitable app and cargo the film or present you’ve chosen. Reelgood’s cell app even supplies a digital distant management, so you possibly can pause, quick ahead, or rewind with out reaching for the bodily Roku distant.
Eli Chamberlin, Reelgood’s head of product and design, mentioned through e mail that the corporate is utilizing some trickery to make this occur. When you choose a film or present within the cell app, Reelgood transmits a set of identifiers for that content material to the Roku, comparable in nature to hyperlinks on the net. Roku doesn’t formally present this information to app makers, so Reelgood has completed a number of information mining to determine which identifiers will immediate a specific video to launch.
“We have indexed so much content from various services, along with many different types of content identifiers, that we can construct many different permutations of these links to see what works,” Chamberlin mentioned. “We’re currently wading our way through each and every service, combining different data we collect to get ones that launch the content successfully.”
Work in progress
The hacky nature of Reelgood’s method would possibly clarify why it doesn’t but work with each streaming service.
When I attempted taking part in movies from HBO Now, for example, my Roku Streaming Stick+ would solely launch into the app and progress no additional. The NBC app refused to launch by way of Reelgood in any respect, and attempting to pick Apple TV+ movies resulted in a “content unavailable error.” Most surprisingly, Food Network Go would repeatedly load the element web page for Iron Chef America Season 10 Episode 27 regardless what present I’d truly chosen.
Chamberlin mentioned Reelgood was already conscious of these points after I introduced them up, and promised fixes shortly, however I wouldn’t rule out extra glitches with different streaming providers sooner or later. Reelgood’s information itself additionally has some blind spots that stop it from utterly changing your distant. You can’t use it to launch live channels from providers similar to YouTube TV or AT&T TV Now, and it doesn’t floor content material from Pluto TV. You can also’t use it to browse user-generated content material on websites like YouTube.
For now, although, Reelgood’s app remains to be a handy strategy to browse the holy trinity of Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime, together with a number of others. And it’s coming to different gadgets quickly. Chamberlin mentioned Reelgood is beta testing Android TV and Amazon Fire TV apps now, with plans to launch them in early May; these gained’t require you to make use of the cell app in any respect. (If you occur to have an LG WebOS TV, Reelgood already presents a local app there.)
Battle of the guides
Reelgood just isn’t the one one providing this sort of aggregation.
One of its foremost rivals, JustWatch, launched its personal information apps on Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Android TV late final 12 months. Like Reelgood, you need to use JustWatch to create a watchlist and get suggestions throughout a number of streaming providers, together with Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney+, and Hulu. (Unlike Reelgood, JustWatch has no resolution for Roku gadgets.)
TiVo can also be getting ready to launch its personal Android TV-based streaming dongle referred to as the TiVo Stream 4K. Its foremost hook is a TV information that pulls in video from numerous totally different streaming sources. The firm instructed me earlier this month that it’s nonetheless on monitor to launch the system quickly.
These choices, I hope, are a precursor to the streaming platforms themselves getting extra critical about streaming unification. Apple TV already does a advantageous job with this by way of its TV app, nevertheless it actually needs to integrate Netflix into its watchlist characteristic. Amazon presents suggestions on its Fire TV house display screen, nevertheless it leans too closely into its personal Prime content material and sponsored listings, and it lacks any sort of common watchlist. The “channel row” idea on Android TV devices is helpful, nevertheless it too is lacking the sort of watchlists that Reelgood and JustWatch already accomplish that nicely.
As for Roku, I’d like to see the corporate take a significant stab a creating its personal unified streaming information, however for now it appears extra thinking about selling a narrower vary of content material by way of its personal Roku Channel app as an alternative. That’s a disgrace, however at the least Reelgood might help compensate.
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